In his 1908 book Orthodoxy, the feisty G.K. Chesterton described our search for truth and meaning as that of a man who sails from the coast of England, spending many days on the ocean, until he arrives back in the very village he left. At first he does not recognize the place, and it seems fresh and wondrous, untainted with familiarity. Then he realizes he has lived here all his life, and sees his home with newly appreciative eyes.
Chesterton equated the unappreciated village to church, to our view of God and wherever he chose to put us on Earth. I have detected this same veil in myself and other people, especially when it comes to writing. I once saw a Twitter profile whose author asked something like, “Why write about the boring mundane world when you can write about fantasy?”
If Twitter is any indication, then plenty of writers love sci-fi/fantasy/horror, but they shouldn’t choose those genres out of contempt for the existing world. Strangeness and marvels are here for us right now!
When I took the pictures for this blog, I had that secret fear that this place I loved—my home—would yield shabby or ordinary photos without much value. Instead I found more than I anticipated: the hairs on a honeybee’s abdomen, the angles of light across a hardwood floor, the wild paintbrush sunsets that happen every night while I’m watching TV inside the house.
If we think expansively for a moment, we remember we don’t just live at a home address or in a zip code, but on a planet within a local solar system, within a galaxy, within and within greater echelons of creation. It is awesome, beautiful, and terrifying, especially when you remember that the God who spoke it all into being speaks to us as well, that he overlapped with humanity for a short time and got tired and sick alongside us and died in an incredible way none of us can fully understand.
That is the ultimate story, and it has ruptured into our world, soaked it, saturated it, permeated it with mystery and oddity. The joy of it is that we will never close the book on it, never excavate the last story and say, “That’s done, now we can move on to the worlds in our imagination”—because this reality fills us, and unlike us, its creator can never be exhausted.
That’s why I named this blog “Crosses in Unlikely Places.” It’s dedicated to reminding us to notice our surroundings, whether we are writers or readers. Consider the longing our homes inspire in us for the mind that made them, the way their continual renewal reflects the story God began. In a town where “nothing ever happens,” with no crime rate, hall of fame, or NFL team to its name, the creation is always pressing in on us, waiting for our attention.
Where do you see God in your everyday life? The ocean, the baby’s smile, the broken knob on an old dresser? Do you notice when characters (in your own work or somebody else’s) find strange or spectacular things in seemingly modest places and lives?
Anthony Otten has published stories in The Jabberwock Review, Valparaiso Fiction Review, and Wind. He has been a finalist for the Hargrove Editors' Prize in Fiction. Still: The Journal has published an excerpt from his novel. He lives in Kentucky.
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